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Cricket: Ireland hit cruise control on way to World final

Ireland have taken an instant liking to the VRA ground in Amstelveen where they will play in the World League Division One final on Saturday.

Victory over Canada in their first game this week on the Netherlands main cricket venue guaranteed their return for the decider against either Scotland or Afghanistan, who meet in the final round of group games tomorrow.

For Ireland, only the Dutch now stand in their way of a clean sweep through the group stages with a team which is growing in confidence with every match. Even at 92 for five, chasing 155, there was no panic. Why should there be when John Mooney (right) joined Kevin O’Brien in the middle and the pair who saw Ireland home on Monday against Scotland with an unbroken stand of 65 needed only 63 this time to make it four wins out of four?

O’Brien still can’t get to 50, left frustratingly short of a half century for the fourth time in five innings, but his unbeaten 43, together with figures of two for 21 was enough for him to win his second successive man-of-the-match award.

Mooney is enjoying his best run with the bat in an Ireland shirt; he is now averaging 66 this week — and don’t forget he scored 38 against the Australians just three weeks ago. He scored six boundaries, including three in the space of 12 balls to hurry Ireland to success just as rain was falling.

National coach Phil Simmons decided to keep his winning line-up together so there was no place for Waringstown’s James Hall who was forced to pull out of Monday’s game with a finger injury. Instead it was Andrew Balbirnie who strode out with Paul Stirling and for 30 balls he looked very much at home, scoring 17, including his first four for Ireland. But next ball he tried to take on the accurate Harvir Baidwain, only got the leading edge and was, disappointingly, caught at cover.

Two balls from the slow left arm spin of Parth Desai did for Andrew Poynter, promoted to No 3, and after Stirling drove one straight to extra cover, Rory McCann, at No 4, was plumb in front at the other end to Hiral Patel for six. Andrew White suffered his first duck for three years — since the 2007 I-Cup final against Canada — also putting his pad before his bat but he had already done his job with the ball, one of three Ireland spinners who sent down a total of 25 overs and did not concede a single boundary.

Ireland had their first sighting of the next big thing in Canadian cricket, 16-year-old Nitish Kumar. He was in the middle for 23 overs for 38 before 17-year-old George Dockrell spun one past him to leave Canada 82 for four.

It got no better and such is the quality of Ireland’s bowling here, that Alex Cusack was only called on to bowl when Canada had to take their batting powerplay in the 46th over.

Belfast Telegraph